While Rain Floods the Highway Between Nacogdoches and Lufkin, TX
“Love is watching someone die / So who’s gonna watch you die?”
—Death Cab for Cutie, “What Sarah Said”
I am driving home at midnight from my boyfriend’s house
and I stop at the Love’s gas station between our towns.
This song grows softer beneath the October rain tap tap
tapping on the roof above the pumps. The neons
from the red and yellow lights Rorschach themselves
onto the slick pavement. Hours before he had asked me
“Am I saying ‘I love you’ too much?”
I had to think for a moment. I only hesitated
because for him to ask that, it meant I wasn’t saying it
enough. And it was true. Though I always said it back
I rarely said it first. He texts if I had gotten home
yet, he was getting worried. I reply yes but I am still sitting here.
There’s a strange comfort knowing if I were to crash
on my way home, he’d be the first person I’d want for responders
to call, to think “Oh, because he’s the most recent message,
he’s the most important person to her.” And I keep questioning
if my love is real or if I just echo whatever my brain’s
desperately trying to say. Maybe I do love the way his eyes
gleam when he looks up at the Christmas lights in my bedroom
or when I study my naked body in the mirror before
he comes over, somehow I see a sculpted Aphrodite,
white marble shading a shadowed fold above my pubis,
a crease of abdominal fat spilling out like spaghetti squash,
and I actually think, I’m beautiful. When we fool around
he handles me like we are an accident—rough, jumbled, colliding—
but after we’re done, we are two victims recovering together,
huddled on the curb beneath a glittering shock blanket, concealing the wreckage.
The rain doesn’t cease. I pull into the deluge, wipe away fawn-tinted
bokeh sequinning the window, and disappear back down the unlit highway.
When I reach Nacogdoches the red traffic lights transform into ambulances
inside my mind and I can finally see him there, where the blank face I’d always seen
in unfinished daydreams had been filled in with his, and I can feel his hands
on my thighs just like when he asked me, “Am I saying ‘I love you’ too much?”
I whisper my answer into the saturated atmosphere.
We Are Visitors Here
A prawn and great blue heron decorate the educational board
at Deception Pass, urges us to take nothing from the beach:
“Removing even one small creature would affect many others.”
If you were to remove me from the Pacific Ocean,
away from the yellow flowers like sneezed pollen,
away from the parabolic bridge that connects Whidbey Island
and Fidalgo Island, this would surely affect the following
years of our relationship. I will pinch my claws into your skin,
screaming return me to the waters of the strait,
where I belonged in the first place, where you should
never have touched my shell, plucked me.
Emily Townsend is a graduate student in English at Stephen F. Austin State University. Her works have appeared in cream city review, Superstition Review, Thoughtful Dog, Noble / Gas Qtrly, Santa Clara Review, Eastern Iowa Review, Pacifica Literary Review and others. A nominee for a Pushcart Prize and 2019 AWP Intro Journals Award, she is currently working on a second collection of essays in Nacogdoches, Texas.